The best metal-prog band in the world?… well, I don´t know if it´s the best but I´m sure it´s one of the most undervalued and one of the most unknown.
“Subsurface” is the title of their seventh studio album after the brilliant live album “Critical Energy” released last year. Although I must admit that the early works “Psychedelicatessen” (93), with Glynn Morgan on vocals, “Wounded Land” (92) and “Extinct Instinct” (97) both with Damian Wilson (Ayeron/Wakeman) singing, are not my cup of tea, the entrance of vocalist Mac (as it sounds) gave an extra nerve and personality to the band of the guitarist Karl Groom, also known for his labors as producer and collaborator in dozens of projects. The presence of the impressive black drummer Johanne James since “Hypothetical” (01) definitely reinforces a line up completed by founders Richard West (keyboards) and Nick Midson (guitars), and bassist Jon Jeary.
After fervently recommend “Hypothetical” (01), “Critical Mass” (02) and “Critical Energy” (03), now I´m going to comment the relative disappointment of “Subsurface”, an album that could be a good starting point for a newcomer listener but that can´t be compared to the previous albums.
The nine tracks of “Subsurface” show a metal prog machine perfectly greased but I can also notice a sound very homogeneous that makes the songs very similar among them. The optimism rises in my heart with the opening tracks, the spectacular “Mission Profile” (8:15), and the energetic but with a great chorus “Ground Control” (7:10). The ghost of “Critical Mass” appears for the first time in “Opium” (6:47) but it disappears with the powerful but delicate “Stop Dead” (4:18).
“The Art of Reason” and its 10:17 takes is back to old compositions such as “Surface to Air”, “Sanity´s End”, or “Into the Light”. A good track but, as it happens sometimes in progressive rock, unnecessarily extended. It´s more like a sequence of good ideas linked by common canons.
The rawest metal prog returns with “Pressure” (5:13), combining energetic verses with a brilliant chorus, all with a splendid drumwork by James. I´ll pass by the ballad “Flags and Footprints” (4:57) and it´s time for “Static” (5:05), and it´s when the album seems to be a constant repetition. The album finishes with “The Destruction of Worlds” (6:10), a power-ballad with lots of tension.
The album will be released in August (definitely a good month if you want an album to go unnoticed) and the special edition will have a large booklet, video clip and bonus track.
If you haven´t listened to Threshold or you´re not very demanding with the band and you only want the same sound of the latest three albums, you won´t be disappointed with “Subsurface”. But Threshold has proved that they are able to reinvent their music several times, and that´s the reason why I´m a little bit sad. The album doesn´t evolve but definitely the music has the elements to get a wider audience mainly in metal prog circles.